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Role Playing (Games) Games Politics

Iranian Players Blocked From World of Warcraft Due To Trade Sanctions 475

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the overthrow-government-instead dept.
cold fjord writes "Is this the end of the world . . . of Warcraft? Maybe for Iranian gamers who are undergoing a forced morale check due to tightening sanctions cutting access to their game of choice. From the article: 'Iranian players of "World of Warcraft" ... have found themselves frozen out by Blizzard Activision Inc., the American company behind the game. Iranian role playing enthusiasts have spent much of the past week peppering Blizzard's message board with complaints about how they weren't able to log on to the service — only to be told recently that U.S. law was to blame. "United States trade restrictions and economic sanction laws prohibit Blizzard from doing business with residents of certain nations, including Iran," the company said in an email sent to players last week...'" Thanks to the sanctions, they can't get refunds either.
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Iranian Players Blocked From World of Warcraft Due To Trade Sanctions

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 29, 2012 @10:13AM (#41166209)

    I remember growing up during the Cold War, and being taught all the pro-U.S. propaganda: The Russian space program sucks. You don't need papers to travel in the U.S. unlike the USSR. U.S,. citizens were free to travel anywhere, unlike those poor Soviets. Only Poland cracked down on labor unions and dissedents. And so on.

    It was only after I grew up and learned to see through the bullshit that I realized that was all lies. We had been lied to just as much as the Soviets. The Russian space program is filled with firsts that American students never learned about (we only got the NASA stuff and a brief mention of Sputnik). You DAMN SURE DO need papers to travel in the U.S. (try getting pull over by a cop sometime and tell him you have no identification, driver's license, proof of insurance, and registration and just see what happens, or try coming here sometime to see if the cops accept "We don't need no papers, this is America!" in lieu of your passport/green card/visa). Polish labor unions weren't the only ones that got cracked down on in the 80's. And American are ABSOLUTELY NOT allowed to travel anywhere they wish (try joining your European friend on his vacation in Cuba sometime if you think so).

    And if you're American you are also prohibited from doing business with any country the American government doesn't like (which are usually the ones who dared overthrow one of the U.S.'s corrupt puppet regimes).

    Land of the free...not so much.

    • by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Wednesday August 29, 2012 @10:54AM (#41166975) Homepage

      There are a lot of factual problems with your statements. I'm not going to list all the Soviet space accomplishments I learned about in school, because that's likely a function of specific school one went to and how much detail on the space program one had. But let's look at your other claims.

      First of all, the US has not (until very recently in some states like Arizona) been a papers-please state, that is a state where the police can just stop you on the street and ask for your ID and other paperwork. The difference with cars is that you need a license to drive a car. Comparing that to what the USSR did is just not accurate.

      Second, it is possible to travel to Cuba and has been for over a decade, and in fact it just got easier about a year ago. http://travel.nytimes.com/2011/07/10/travel/at-long-last-legal-trips-to-cuba.html [nytimes.com]. Even in years where it has been difficult, a minimum of around 50,000 Americans traveled there has been around 50,000. Moreover, there's a very large difference between it being difficult to travel to a specific country and making it nearly impossible to travel to most of the planet. Remember the Berlin Wall at all? People were shot trying to flee as a regular occurrence. The US may do nasty things sometimes to keep people out, but they aren't threatening their own citizens to keep them in.

      None of this is to say that the US is perfect. There are serious problems with civil liberties. And in many ways they've gotten much worse in the last decade. But that doesn't mean it is at all like how things were in the Soviet Union.

      • by Hatta (162192) on Wednesday August 29, 2012 @01:04PM (#41168821) Journal

        The difference with cars is that you need a license to drive a car. Comparing that to what the USSR did is just not accurate.

        The problem is that the authorities can always come up with some bullshit legalistic explanation like that. Excuse, after excuse, after excuse, carving out holes in our rights until the constiution looks like swiss cheese.

    • Did NASA ever have a rocket explode and kill 48 of the Engineers? Don't get me wrong Russia has a functional space program, and is going to make mistakes just as we have, but I think blowing up a Large Number of engineers would shape the opinion of people during the Cold War that their space program sucks. That one little Vostok-2M rocket probably set them back a decade in talent.
      If a cop pulls over someone with no Drivers Licence and no Insurance they have proven that they shouldn't be driving. You need
    • I remember growing up during the Cold War, and being taught all the pro-U.S. propaganda: The Russian space program sucks.

      It does, or it did anyway. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soviet_space_program#Incidents.2C_Failures.2C_and_Setbacks [wikipedia.org]

    • by cornjones (33009) on Wednesday August 29, 2012 @12:15PM (#41168165) Homepage

      yeah, i remember hearing all that bullshit about russians having to wait in line for food, paying outlandish prices for western goods like jeans and vcr's b/c they weren't available there, being afraid to speak out b/c the police would throw them in jail and afraid their neighbors would turn them in as dissidents if they weren't seen vocally espousing their true loyalty.. I always assumed it was completely biased propaganda in a cold war US vs THEM style.

      Fast forward 20 years. I married a Russian woman and learned that what was happening was generally much _worse_ than what I had been taught. Just recently read Archipelago Gulag which again confirmed this for me. What I was hearing about russia wasn't nearly as bad as Russia really was.

      Now, I don;t like the direction American laws and politics are heading one bit, and I will continue to fight against the tide. But false equivalences like the parent post show nothing so much as a lack of perspective...

    • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Wednesday August 29, 2012 @05:29PM (#41172295) Journal

      When I was a kid, I lived in a country called USSR. It being the last years of its existence, we also thought that America was free, and we shall soon be like them in that respect, as soon as we get rid of those pesky commies.

      And, yes, a lot of that turned out to be BS. But, having lived in USA for a few years now, I can assure you that it's definitely much more free than the USSR or Russia ever was. I'm not going to claim that USA is the "most free" country in the world or some such. But it's definitely reasonable to broadly call it "free", alongside a few others.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    So they move to private servers.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 29, 2012 @10:19AM (#41166315)

    Because obviously there's nothing more likely to inspire outrage and violence than nerds denied their gaming habits.

    This will be the straw that breaks the camel's back, and returns Democracy and Freedom to Iran, decades after the CIA took it away.

  • by slashmydots (2189826) on Wednesday August 29, 2012 @10:20AM (#41166335)

    Thanks to the sanctions, they can't get refunds either.

    I think that last part is just Blizzard actually, lol. I would think that receiving $50 or whatever from services provided to an Iranian then getting told that's not allowed would mean you have to undo the trade by giving that $50 back.

    • by RogueyWon (735973) * on Wednesday August 29, 2012 @10:39AM (#41166705) Journal

      When you register with Blizzard, part of the information that's required is the country you reside in. The question in my mind is whether "Iran" was ever on the list and - if it was - whether you were able to register an account and purchase games if you set that as your answer.

      If - as is quite possible - the only way to register an account in Iran was to pretend to be from somewhere else, then even in the absence of sanctions, Blizzard could probably just shrug, say "TOS violation" and refuse a refund.

    • by tgd (2822)

      I would think

      Strangely, there's no relationship between what you think and US law. Weird, huh?

  • by DigiShaman (671371) on Wednesday August 29, 2012 @10:20AM (#41166341) Homepage

    Given the hardline stance in Iran, I would think all western games would be banned for being un islamic in the first place.

    • by jkflying (2190798) on Wednesday August 29, 2012 @10:24AM (#41166411)

      Perhaps it's not quite as bad there as you've been led to believe?

      • by biochozo (2700157)
        Impossible! Iran IS the desolate wasteland we've been led to believe. My friend who frequents lies to me about how awesome the shopping is, how friendly the people are, and how it's really not so bad... or different. It would also be a lie to believe that if you were to go over there... the people would be just as frustrated with their government and their media shows off only the weirdest and skewed stories from the us. Like someone eating another man's face off, people getting massacred in movie theaters
      • by cdrguru (88047) on Wednesday August 29, 2012 @11:56AM (#41167907) Homepage

        Of course it is possible.

        But then again it is pretty easy to believe the worst of a country that punishes female infidelity by stoning.

    • by Nadaka (224565)

      Iran is not run by the taliban. They have their own issues, but they are not the worst of the worst.

      • by bug1 (96678)

        Iran is not run by the taliban. They have their own issues, but they are not the worst of the worst.

        World has been safe since "the worst of the worst" are locked up in guantanamo, thankyou GWB.

        (sarcasm)

    • by vlm (69642)

      Given the hardline stance in Iran, I would think all western games would be banned for being un islamic in the first place.

      Probably not all of them, but some of them, yeah. There's a wiki page for everything:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Christian_video_games_by_genre [wikipedia.org]

      Computerized chess game, yeah I think that'll be OK.

  • Stupid (Score:5, Insightful)

    by stoolpigeon (454276) * <bittercode@gmail> on Wednesday August 29, 2012 @10:21AM (#41166357) Homepage Journal

    I'm always shocked at just how much American culture has spread world wide. And the thing is - it often works in our favor. Iranian kids playing WoW can't in any way benefit Iran that I can think of, but has multiple benefits for the U.S. Someone from the gov should be on the horn right now getting those accounts reactiviated.

    • Re:Stupid (Score:5, Insightful)

      by king neckbeard (1801738) on Wednesday August 29, 2012 @10:31AM (#41166541)
      I agree completely. If you want to undermine a theocracy, trade sanctions that hurt the people and not the leaders aren't the way to do so. The best way is to give their people tools to share information. Spend 1% of the current US 'defense' budget on FTTH for Iran, and not only will those seeking to overthrow the government have better tools at their disposal, but it's harder to convince someone to kill themselves for a spiritual cause when tons of HD porn is just seconds away.
      • by br00tus (528477) on Wednesday August 29, 2012 @03:33PM (#41170871)

        Iran had a secular democracy in 1953. The CIA helped overthrow it and installed a dictatorship. Then the US puppet's security arm, Savak, worked with the CIA to kill off, imprison and exile the left. By the late 1970s, the only independent bodies in Iran were the mullahs, and the informal relationships bazaar merchants formed. Thus when the economy collapsed, and repression intensified, the mullahs and bazaar merchants were at the forefront of the revolution, they were the only independent bodies the CIA had not wrecked.

        Then Americans have the gall to stick up their nose and whine about theocracies. Of course, Iran is a secular paradise compared to somewhere like US puppet regime Saudi Arabia. In Saudi Arabia, women are not even allowed to drive cars. So why do we hear this theocracy stuff for Iran but not Saudi Arabia? Would it have something to do with the government (which has popular support, and some democratic forms - much, much more than Saudi Arabia) not asking "how high" whenever the powers that be in the US say "jump"? The gall and hypocrisy and rose-colored glasses of imperial-happy Americans seems unlimited, only planes flying into their war-planning pentagon buildings seem to wake them up from their stupor for a short bit.

    • by Ryanrule (1657199)

      Have a read. Good stuff.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cultural_imperialism [wikipedia.org]

    • Re:Stupid (Score:5, Insightful)

      by RogueyWon (735973) * on Wednesday August 29, 2012 @11:03AM (#41167105) Journal

      Actually, I doubt that Blizzard's actions are related to any recent change of policy by the US Government. Rather, it's about companies looking differently at how current policies might be applied in the wake of the HSBC case that's running at the moment (which may or may not be a piece of Wall Street protectionism).

      I can't prove it, because obviously they'll have updated their registration systems now, but I'd be prepared to bet that Blizzard have never allowed the registration of accounts (or at least the purchase of games or subscriptions on accounts) where the customer identified themselves as being from Iran. They - and quite a lot of other companies - would have been operating on the principle that this was enough to get them legally in the clear against charges of dealing with regimes subject to sanctions.

      The HSBC case has shown (among other things) that getting customers to tick a box certifying that they aren't from such a country is not, in fact, enough to prevent you from having to answer some fairly scary questions. I suspect Blizzard have just looked at their legal risk register and decided that they need to move to an IP-blocking system. So it's not actually a change of policy by either the US Government or Blizzard - but rather a change in approach and methodology.

    • Re:Stupid (Score:4, Funny)

      by Xest (935314) on Wednesday August 29, 2012 @11:48AM (#41167777)

      Maybe Barrack's level 60 wizard got killed by Ahmadinejad's level 60 warrior or whatever the fuck you get in these games nowadays?

  • Oh great (Score:5, Insightful)

    by aaaaaaargh! (1150173) on Wednesday August 29, 2012 @10:28AM (#41166489)

    The US has just pissed off a few hundred more Iranians. Ahmadinejad couldn't be more happy.

    • by Blakey Rat (99501)

      They were never legally allowed to buy or play WOW in the first place. Blizzard's just changing the enforcement to be more proactive.

  • I have a feeling that bored Iranian computer savvy individuals, newly irritated with United States foreign policy, could backfire.
  • Lists to check (Score:4, Interesting)

    by dtmos (447842) * on Wednesday August 29, 2012 @10:29AM (#41166515)

    The Bureau of Industry and Security [doc.gov], US Department of Commerce, is the place to go to see the appropriate regulations. See, especially, the Export Administration Regulations [doc.gov], the Commerce Control List (especially), and the Lists to Check [doc.gov] list. (Yes, there are so many lists that the lists themselves have a list.)

  • Wouldn't F2P solve this situation since there is no business transaction?
    • Sort of. F2P up to level 20. When max level is 85, that's pretty worthless.
      • by BMOC (2478408)
        Can you purchase quest packs to 85? (i.e., freemium model) If so, then all Blizzard has to do is accept bitcoin or some other location-masking payment option and the problem is solved, right?
  • ...that's all Iran wants - a million pissed off teen/twenty-somethings will a whole lot o' anger and a newfound whole lot o' free time on their hands...

  • by sunking2 (521698) on Wednesday August 29, 2012 @11:23AM (#41167425)
    Why is this an issue? Guess what, the online yarn store also can't sell to them, or puzzles R us, or any other businesses. This is why it's called sanctions. You aren't supposed to be doing business with them in an attempt to influence policy change.
  • by Fieryphoenix (1161565) on Wednesday August 29, 2012 @12:35PM (#41168481)
    I thought it said that Iranian prayers were blocked.
  • by RobertLTux (260313) <robert@laurenceP ... minus physicist> on Wednesday August 29, 2012 @01:16PM (#41168981)

    I would require Blizzard set aside the funds so that if/when the sanctions get lifted they can either process the refunds or reinstate the accounts. Otherwise how much money has Blizzard "gained" by doing this??

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